You can listen to Episode 5 of Season 2 of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, "The Witching Hour", on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and other podcast apps, available via Buzzsprout.


“By the pricking of my toes,

Something wicked that way goes!”

from Alethea Lewis’s The Nuns of the Desert, or The Woodland Witches (1805)

In last October's episode, “Of Monks and Mountains!!!” Kate and Kandice each read a gothic novel found in the WPHP, and it was so much fun that we simply had to do it again. For Season 2, Episode 5, “The Witching Hour”, we read books about witches — almost every book that mentions witches in the title in the WPHP, in fact! (There are only five.)

But within that small sample, we found a full spectrum of representations of witches and witchcraft, from the fantastical (and silly) woodland witches in Alethea Lewis’s The Nuns of the Desert (1805), to Joanna Baillie’s spine-tingling play, Witchcraft (1836), set against the backdrop of the Scottish witch hunt—and everything in between.

Join us for the fifth episode of Season 2, “The Witching Hour,” to learn more about why we only found five titles, what those titles told us about the role of witchcraft in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural imagination, and (most importantly) which title we awarded the coveted label of “bonkers.” But be warned—recording this episode gave Kate nightmares.


Produced by: Kate Moffatt, Kandice Sharren, and Michelle Levy.

Mixed and mastered by Alexander Kennard

Music: “Bells with Crows”, by MKzing,

"Creepy Horror Movie Music", by Alexander Kennard.

“Sweetest Bard”, from Ignatius Sancho’s Minuets, Cotillions & Country Dances for the Violin, Mandolin, German Flute, & Harpsichord Composed by an African (1767), from Played by Kandice Sharren.

We are grateful to Michael Everton for his helpful suggestions for resources about nineteenth-century representations of witch trials.

Other WPHP Monthly Mercury Episodes Referenced:

Of Monks and Mountains!!!

WPHP Entries Referenced:

Joanna Baillie (person)

Elisabeth Guenard (person)

The Three Monks!!! (title)

Catherine Cuthbertson (person)

Romance of the Pyrenees (title)

Clara Reeve (person)

The Old English Baron (title)

Ann Radcliffe (person)

The Ragged Uproar: Or, The Oxford Roratory (title)

Joan Plotwell (person)

The Witch, and the Maid of Honour (title)

The Nuns of the Desert, or The Woodland Witches (title)

Alethea Lewis (person)

Donalda, or the Witches of Glenshiel (title)

Mary Julia Young (person)

Ann Lemoine (firm)

The Witch of Rona (title)

Dramas [by Joanna Baillie] (title)

The Plays on the Passions (also known as "A Series of Plays...") (title)

Zofloya (title)

J.F. Hughes (firm)

Charlotte Dacre (person)

Confessions of the Nun of St. Omer (title)

Hours of Solitude (title)

Longmans (firm)

Works Cited

Adams, Gretchen A. The Specter of Salem: Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Bardsley, Alyson. "Belief and Beyond: The Law, the Nation, and the Drama in Joanna Baillie's Witchcraft." Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, vol. 14, no. 2, Summer 2002, p. 231-270.

Clery, E.J. The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800. Cambridge UP, 1995. 

Everton, Michael. ‘Which Ethics for Essex? Elizabeth Gaskell, Salem Witchcraft, and the Problem of Forgiveness’. The New England Quarterly, vol. 94, no. 1, Mar. 2021, pp. 108–41.

​​Garside, Peter. ‘The English Novel in the Romantic Era: Consolidation and Dispersal’. The English Novel, 1770–1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles, edited by Peter Garside et al., vol. 2, Oxford UP, 2000.

Goodare, Julian. ‘Witchcraft in Scotland’. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America, edited by Brian P. Levack, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 300–17. 

Neiman, Elizabeth A. Minerva’s Gothics: The Politics and Poetics of Romantic Exchange, 1780–1820. University of Wales Press, 2019.

Sharpe, J. A. Witchcraft in Early Modern England. Second edition, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2020.

Simpson, David. Romanticism and the Question of the Stranger. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Way, Elizabeth. ‘“By Unholy Arts?”: The Craft of Protest in Joanna Baillie’s The Phantom and Witchcraft’. European Romantic Review, vol. 32, no. 3, May 2021, pp. 279–93.

Further Reading

Gamer, Michael. Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Garside, Peter. ‘J. F. Hughes and the Publication of Popular Fiction, 1803–1810’. The Library, vol. s6-IX, no. 3, 1987, pp. 240–58.

Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Marta María. “Witches and Literary Justice: The Salem Witchcraft Trials in Nineteenth-Century Historical Fiction.” GRAAT On-Line, no. 14, June 2013, pp. 32–54.

Levack, Brian P. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Lloyd, N. S. ‘Mary Julia Young: A Biographical and Bibliographical Study’. Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840, no. 18, Summer 2008, pp. 63–98.

Vetere, Lisa M. ‘The Malefic Unconscious: Gender, Genre, and History in Early Antebellum Witchcraft Narratives’. Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 42, no. 2, 2012, pp. 119–48.